Books are more than paper and ink for artist Bob Meadows

Shannon CareyFountain City

Bob Meadows is one of those people who is never without a book. But his passion doesn’t stop with reading words on the printed page. He’s fallen in love with the process of making books, and he’s willing to share his talents with you.

Meadows hails from Macon, Georgia. After teaching school for a few years, he followed a graphic design career path to Atlanta and Chattanooga.

In Chatty, Meadows taught calligraphy for five or six years and was exposed to bookbinding through that work.He was eventually hired by TVA, and that meant a move to Knoxville.

Many years later, when his wife passed away, Meadows started searching for a hobby. He remembered bookbinding and was intrigued enough to take a class at the famous John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina.

A handmade book by Bob Meadows using marbled paper

“I just figured it would be fun,” said Meadows. “But I met Joyce Sievers, a wonderful teacher who really inspired me, so I went back and took another and another. I just kept going back.”

Eventually, Sievers talked Meadows into teaching at the school, which he did for about six years.

“It was a natural fit,” said Meadows. “I’ve found that books kind of pulled all my experience together into one object.”

Meadows discovered Fountain City Art Center when he entered an art exhibit through Covenant Health’s Passport Seniors.

“I was just fascinated by the place,” he said. “It’s a place where you feel comfortable and welcome no matter when you walk in. It’s just a lot of camaraderie. It gave me almost a whole new family.”

Now, Meadows hosts bookbinding workshops at the Art Center. He serves on the center’s board of directors and was president of the board for about three years. He has books available for purchase in the gift shop located inside the center.

The books Meadows makes and teaches his students to make aren’t just blank books. They are art pieces through and through. The incorporate techniques like Japanese stab and pamphlet stitch. They can include beadwork on the binding, marbled paper. They are truly works of art, intended as mementos and gifts, and are often filled with inspirational quotes, poems or passages from scripture.

“There are thinks like this you can do that are just very special,” he said. “I love to give the books because it’s such an expressive gift, and it means something.”

Students can learn to incorporate beads into their bookbinding with Bob Meadows’ upcoming workshop.

Right now, Meadows is creating the guest registry for his youngest grandson’s wedding. The book will be made from the groom’s mother’s wedding dress.

“It’s fulfilling in lots of different ways,” he said. “Just the physical holding of the book that you’ve created is to me something special.”

His work has won a number of awards, and two of his books were showcased in “Ecobooks” by Lark Books.

Meadows will host a workshop 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 10, at Fountain City Art Center themed “Books and Beads” that will demonstrate three book designs that can incorporate beaded stitching. Those who would like to participate should contact the Art Center as soon as possible to register.

Meadows hopes his students will take home a love of books.

“It’s an art form that almost anybody can do,” he said. “It’s just a love of the form. It’s a love of paper, a love of books and the ability to continue making them without further instruction if they want to.”

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